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August 11, 2010, marks the start of Ramadan for this year, the month of fasting, prayer, and spiritual renewal for Muslims around the world.  For Christians, this event on the calendar may trigger some musings about how Christians can or should respond in general to Muslims, and how in particular we can respond to those who reside in our local communities.  

While not all Muslims are radicals or terrorists, some clearly are.  As recently as August 7th, Americans awoke to the news that ten members of a team of medical aid workers were murdered in Afghanistan, allegedly because they were Christians.   (Click HERE for link.)  How can, or should, we respond to the people whose religion provided excuse for these atrocities? 

Hatefulness and vengeance are not the attitude of just a few, but rather seem to represent an entire wing that makes up a large geographic part of the world.  Turning the other cheek can be difficult, in light of these heinous and (humanly) unforgiveable crimes. 

But difficulty of practice does not take away the admonition in Matthew 5 that we are to “turn the other cheek”.  Jesus taught us to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”  He never said it would be easy. 

Pray for those who persecute you. 

The argument that the actions of the most extreme radicals should not be held against more moderate Muslims, while legitimate, does not change the fact that these views are, in fact, not actually limited to a small fringe.  A bit closer to home, for most of us, is our almost daily observation of women wearing the Chador, the head to toe garment which theoretically protects a woman’s modesty.  

In 1935, when the Shah of Iran wanted to modernize his country, he banned the wearing of the chador.  Now, in Iran, women who refused to wear it may be censured.  This garment has become a symbol for the larger clash of culture, symbolizing an attitude of intolerance so threatening toward Western, Judeo-Christian values that moderate Muslim governments like Turkey have banned it in some cases, and even secular cultures such as England and France have debated limits on its use.    How many of us in the USA have seen women wearing these garments and felt, well, intruded upon? 

It’s not as if the wearing of a chador is persecution, but its presence feels like a statement which says, “I reject your values; I reject your culture.”  At its far extreme, this rejection results in the beheading of journalists and the murder of medical aid workers.

  chador_pole1

Pray for those who persecute you.  Perhaps Ramadan is a good time to start.   

If you are interested in engaging in thirty days of prayer regarding Islam, during this month of Ramadan, the resource The ThirtyDays Prayer Network may be useful to you.  Some (anonymous) members of Trinity Presbytery are finding it useful as a guide for prayer and journaling. 

One excerpt from one day in this prayer guide admonishes, “Be loving toward all.”  In defense of this principle, it states:  

The world’s Muslims are our neighbors, as Jesus used the term (Luke 10:29-37). The command of God to his people stands for all time: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:18; Luke 10:27b). Both peacemakers and those who love their enemies are described as "sons [or daughters] of God" (Matt 5:9, 44; Luke 6:35). They are called children of God because they are acting like their Father: the God of Peace (Phil 4:9; 1 Thess 5:23). Responding to enemies with self-giving, sacrificial love demonstrates the gospel (Rom 5:10; cf. Col 1:21). 

Although I cringe at the thought of referring to Muslims as “enemies,” I nevertheless agree with the admonition that we are to  “be loving toward all.”  In so doing, we demonstrate the good news of a God who loved the world so much, that he gave his one and only son, to show the way, the truth, and the life.  

What better way to “be loving toward all” than to pray for, and with, those who are so different from ourselves that we have trouble understanding them? 

The link to join this prayer journey during the month of Ramadan is HERE

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